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Equine Dentistry

By Dr. Jenifer Nadeau

When was the last time you had your horse’s teeth checked? If you’re like most horse owners, you may not be aware that all horses should receive a complete dental exam at least yearly, starting from their first year of life.


By the time most horse owners recognize that a horse is having trouble eating or is losing weight, that horse’s teeth may be severely abnormal.

Equine dentists or equine veterinarians that perform dentistry have to look for different situations in the horse’s mouth at different stages of the horse’s life. Situations most common at each life stage include:

Birth-18 Months

Should be examined at least once a year to be evaluated for:

  • Defects that the horse may have been born with related to head symmetry or chewing function
  • Proper eruption of teeth
  • Incisor alignment
  • Sharp enamel points on teeth
  • Improper position and number of teeth
  • Abnormal wear


18 Months-4 Years

Should be examined twice a year to be evaluated for:

  • Eruption cysts in the gums over permanent teeth
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of gums)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Loose or infected caps or cap slivers (A cap is the remnant of the crown of a deciduous tooth after the roots has been resorbed.)
  • Sharp enamel points on the premolar, molar, and wolf teeth
  • Unequal eruption of permanent incisors
  • Wolf teeth interference with bit
  • Rounding of edges of front cheek teeth (first premolar) to keep bitting comfortable


4-10 Years

Should be examined once a year to be evaluated for:

  • Contact and balance of bite surface
  • Sharp enamel points on cheek teeth
  • Sharp edges of cheek teeth which interfere with the bit
  • Jaw balance
  • Symmetry, contact, length, and balance of incisors


10-18 Years

Should be examined once a year to be evaluated for:

  • Abnormalities of wear that can lead to abnormal crown wear, crown fracture, and periodontal disease
  • “Wave” mouth due to abnormalities of wear on central molars making teeth look wave-like
  • Sharp enamel points on teeth that may require extensive correction
  • Balance of tooth alignment
  • Length of canine teeth if needed


18 and Older

May need frequent oral exams and dental maintenance to keep mouth healthy.

  • Periodontal disease (60-80 percent incidence)
  • Tartar accumulation
  • Gingivitis
  • Tooth loosening
  • Loss of grinding surface of teeth
  • Abnormalities of wear
  • Need for geriatric diet
  • Sharp enamel points on teeth
  • Balance between upper and lower jaws